August 11/12 18:56 pm - 2012 Olympic Games: Women's XC report and photos
Posted by Editoress on 08/11/12
Julie Bresset (France) confirmed her elevation to the highest level of mountain biking with her victory in the women's Olympic cross-country race. The Under 23 world champion rode away from the rest of the field to win by over a minute, ahead of defending Olympic champion Sabine Spitz (Germany), with Georgia Gould (USA) taking the bronze, the first U.S. mountain bike medal since Susan DeMattei won bronze in 1996. It was a day of bitter disappointment for Canada, who had two of the top riders in the race with world champion Catharine Pendrel and Emily Batty. Pendrel was ninth and Batty, who rode with a broken clavicle, was 24th.
Weatherwise, it was a perfect day, sunny, with a slight breeze to stop the temperature from getting too hot. Twenty thousand spectators poured into the Hadleigh venue, with most there to support British rider Annie Last.
The venue was sold out with 20,000 spectators
Last got the local fans excited by leading through the start loop before six laps of racing. A lead group of four formed, containing Bresset, Spitz, Pendrel and Last. Pendrel was riding the technical sections well, but it was clear that Bresset was the strongest, as she went to the front on every climb and easily opened a gap.
The start with Annie Last leading
On the second lap, Pendrel attempted to challenge Bresset at the front but, unlike the World Cup races this season and last, she was unable to hold the pace and fell back. From that point on, Pendrel was struggling and steadily fell back to eventually finish ninth. Other top riders were also in difficulty, with 2004 Olympic champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) crashing on the first lap, then flatting and eventually abandoning halfway through the race.
Bresset, Last, Pendrel and Spitz scroll to bottom for many more photo links
"I crashed on that first rocky section in the beginning," explained Dahle Flesjaa, "so that really destroyed the whole race in many ways. I never got back in my kind of working zone at all. Stupid stressing mistakes sometimes happen. The worst start that you could ever imagine happened, but that's the case and then I struggled to get back. I'm in super shape, but kind of overpaced myself a little bit because I wanted to catch up what I lost in the beginning. And then, when I punctured I just thought: 'Well this is just the day that everything goes the wrong way and nothing is with me.' "
Bresset and Spitz were at the front alone by the end of the second lap, with Last falling back just as Gould was moving up past Pendrel. Gould continued to make her way to the front of the race, joining Bresset and Spitz by lap three - the medals looked to be set, it was just a matter of who would be in which colour?
Bresset answered the question late in the third lap with an attack that the other two could not respond to. Her lead grew even more when Spitz crashed in one of the rock gardens the next lap, holding up Gould behind her.
Spitz and Gould start the last lap still battling for silver scroll to bottom for many more photo links
For the remaining lap and a half Bresset went into cruise control; maintaining a pace to hold her gap, while not taking unnecessary chances. Behind, Gould and Spitz were trading attacks, with the American getting away briefly at the end of lap four, only to be chased down and dropped by the German rider on the next lap. Going into the final lap, the two were still together, with Spitz finally getting away in the last two kilometres, to take the silver medal over Gould by a slim six seconds.
Julie Bresset wins GOLD scroll to bottom for many more photo links
"It wasn't easy," commented Bresset, "the circuit was quite difficult. I loved being on the circuit. I had good technique [in the technical sections] and decided to go ahead quite soon. I was a bit scared to be right at the front but actually, being right at the front, I wasn't tired and I felt good."
"I will never consider myself as the best mountain biker. The circuits are always different. The Games were an exceptional circuit. Having won last year's World Cup I thought to myself, well, why not do that again? I proved that I can win World Cups, and not just the once. My training paid off and I was ready for D-Day here."
Spitz explained: "I crashed in the rocky part and I hit my knee. It wasn't that bad and so I got back on my bike and Georgia [Gould] had to wait [laughs]. You normally lose your rhythm, which was the case in my situation, it took me half a lap to get back in the rhythm. It was always a bit back and forth with Georgia. In the last lap it was clear I had to give everything and I had to give 100%. The silver medal is the one that was still missing in my collection. [Spitz won bronze in 2004 and gold in 2008]"
"We have the new generation, the next generation aged around 20 [Bresset], aged around 30 [Gould], aged around 40 [herself]. When I started we had to go on dirt roads and forest roads and so for me the challenge is the modern bike which has changed in the last few years. After the test venue we got an impression of the course and made stuff like this."
Gould, who has had the heartbreak of missing out on her first World Cup win twice this year, paced herself for the early part of the race: "At the beginning I was kind of in the back. It took me a while to get up to the front and I had a really bad start, and then I finally caught up to that lead group. I was lucky that they were playing cat and mouse a little bit because it took me a while to move up."
"I was trying to be a little bit conservative, too. I didn't want to take too many risks. I've had some races this season when things were going really well then some bad luck or a little mistake cost me the race so I just tried to keep it together to the finish. I was just so glad I was able to."
"I was riding in the top three. We were together then Sabine made a little mistake in one of the rock sections and she had to get off her bike, so I had to get off my bike and that was what allowed Julie to get that initial gap. Then we were back and forth a little bit, me and Sabine. She was a little bit stronger there in the end."
"Today I just didn't have it. I'm sorry because I know everyone in BC got up at 4:30 in the morning to watch me, but it is just what I had on the day. Unfortunately this day only comes once every four years. So maybe in Rio."
"Georgia was hurting me. Every effort I made the girls were able to rally. Yah, just didn't have it on the day. I thought I was coming around, but girls just kept passing and passing and passing me. So I don't know, I'm not sure."
Was this a much faster pace than you normally get at a World Cup?
"No, the funny thing is I thought the first two laps were too slow. My husband, on course, says the pace is too slow. Three of us had gotten away, and we allowed the group to come back. I don't know if I used too much, and then it got wasted when we allowed it to come back together? Normally I am really aggressive, out of the saddle attacking, I don't know if I used up all my energy. I just didn't have it, I just didn't feel my self today. I have never gone backwards in a race like that before. Usually I am going forward, and I am attacking, and aggressive, I just never found my rhythm. Hopefully I will vindicate myself at Worlds"
"I am feeling like my heart is broken. I have trained two years for this day and my coach - also my fiancé - has put every ounce of energy into me as I have for myself. A two year process, so to be dealt the card that I was given a few days ago was definitely a challenge. I have been through all the emotions. But I am extremely strong."
"I was pre-riding a few days ago before the event and despite the broken collarbone, the doctors from the COC said it was very stable, and the orthopedic surgeon said there was no way it would displace, it was very strong. He didn't even want to give me the x-ray. They treat the injury not the x-ray and because I was feeling so good, the doctor came out on course with me and he gave me the green light to go. I didn't want to let my dream pass me, so I wanted to race. I am extremely proud to be here for Canada and I wanted to learn as much as I can despite the card that I was given."
How did the accident happen?
"On Tuesday I carried too much speed toward the bottom of a bumpy section and hit a rock in a really awkward position, I landed nose heavy and went over the bars. My head's not broken, my legs are not broken, and my heart is broken."
"I was able to climb, I was able to race. I was not able to descend very well. At the Olympics you need to have 200 percent on your side and if you are lacking anything, that's how the day goes. I am not on any medication, just Advil. I am not in serious pain. The descents were quite painful, but I figured that was only 10 percent of the race lap. I was only descending at my 10 percent capability."
Jacques Landy, Canadian Cycling High Performance Director
"Emily crashed in one of the training sessions. Just for precautionary measures we got her x-rayed. The x-ray showed a fracture in the right clavicle. Our team doctor Bruce Davidson and the COC team doctor is an orthopedic surgeon. They both did a battery of tests on it and both concluded that having not seen the fracture [in the x-ray] they wouldn't have known it was fracture."
"Basically, after that is was just a question of going through the motions of seeing how she would ride. She didn't ride the next day, she stayed on the rollers. The next day she came on the course and we just wanted to verify that everything was ok with the vibrations and stuff. The doctors gave her the green light after doing the battery of tests. After that it was just a question of Dan [Proulx - national coach] making the call. And talking to Emily, saying is this good for you, and that was the case."
On Catharine Pendrel's disappointing result:
"It is obvious that we have to go back and look at how the race, look at her [effort's] profile. That's Dan's job and the Physiologist, and see what happened. Obviously, she didn't come into this race expecting to finish where she finished. She 's podium potential, a real good podium potential. But the Olympics are the Olympics. Really I don't know. We have to go back to the drawing board and look at what happened and basically break down everything with Dan and our IST team."
"The fact is we are going on repeated performances. With both Catharine and Tara [Whitten] we are talking World Champions. As far as I am concerned, they are still World Champions, they raced 100% in the races they entered and I am proud of that. For having them ride through it and giving everything. These performances are not where they should be, for sure, and we haven't had time to analyze the reasons for their performance not being where they should be at this point in time. We'll get back to analyzing and draw some conclusions after that."
Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa talked about having raced in every Olympic Games since mountain bike was introduced to the Olympics in 1996:
"There's a lot of changes, of course, especially with the bikes. In Atlanta in 1996 the bikes were 12.5kg, in Athens it was 10.4kg, and now we have bigger bikes, but it's only 8.5kg. In the equipment, there is a huge difference, and in the level. I know I'm one of the top contenders when it comes to shape right now, because I've been winning big races this season. I was not in there today because of shit happening in the beginning, but I think the level is not that much higher. There are several girls that can fight for the top three and we saw a little bit of that today."
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